By Sofie Braun ’22 and Sofia Cohen ’22, Staff Writer and Layout Editor, respectively
Tenth-grade chemistry teacher Isaac Secemski will retire after sixteen years of teaching chemistry at Heschel. Isaac remarked, “Heschel has been fantastic… the best retirement job one could ask for.” Isaac said that he never imagined that he would meet so many memorable students in his time at Heschel, knowing that he will likely see many of them in the news in the future.
Before teaching at Heschel, Isaac worked at Unilever for almost a quarter of a century. Unilever is a multibillion-dollar consumer goods company that owns brands such as Dove, Axe, Lipton, and Ben and Jerry’s. Isaac worked in many jobs in the detergents division, culminating in his final promotion in 1993 to head of global technology for machine dishwashing and industrial dishwashing. They even built a new technology center in Edgewater for the group, and Isaac took the plaque on the outside wall as a trophy. Isaac retired from Unilever when they relocated from Edgewater to Trumbull. Isaac is a co-author of twelve publications in journals such as the Journal of the Chemical Society and Journal of the American Chemical Society and is co-inventor on over fifteen patents. Technology developed by the groups that Isaac led was incorporated into seven new product launches.
Isaac believes that his time at Unilever prepared him for becoming a teacher. He commented, “At Unilever you had to make presentations all the time. When I first arrived at Unilever, I made lousy presentations to only technical people. Practice makes almost perfect so, at the end of my career, I was making presentations to senior business executives, even board members. The reason for these presentations was basically to explain to business and marketing personnel how our novel technology would enhance the value of our brands. The key is to make the technology understandable without sending the audience to sleep. What better training can there be for teaching chemistry in high school?”
Isaac does not deny that his time at Unilever has influenced how he has taught chemistry, for better or for worse. Isaac noted that, in the private sector, your achievements are judged objectively. Did you meet your goals or not? Isaac wanted to apply the same metric to his teaching, so in the first year he was at Heschel he taught the Honors Chemistry class as a Subject Test course. “At least you have an objective assessment of whether the students have learned something or not.” Now, Honors Chemistry is notorious for centering around the Chemistry Subject Test. All tests are in the form of the actual Subject Test, in preparation for the real test, typically in June.
After he retires, Isaac plans to spend more time with his ten grandchildren and do some travelling with his wife. Man plans and G-d laughs! While we will miss him and his iconic taglines “it’s a joke,” “fantastisch,” and “wunderbar,” we wish him all the best.